Preparing for time away – 12 tips to help you get away with your family!

It is now over 3 years ago since my family – husband and 2 boys, who were both in primary school at the time, embarked on an overseas holiday for nearly 2 months.  Naturally we had to be super organised before we left but it meant we were able to have one of those holidays of a life time that we all still talk about today.  We have so many wonderful memories and don’t recall anything we could have done better in terms of our preparation prior to going away.

travel map - planning a holidayPreparation is the key to travel at the best of times let alone when travelling with children whatever their ages.  The more planning and effort you put in before you travel the easier it will be.  Naturally unexpected things happen like my son having his appendix out 3 days before they were due to meet me in the US but we just had to deal with that at the time and have to deal with things as they arise sometimes.  I put a lot of that down to the fact we had put the time and effort into planning before we left.

When the time comes for you to think about your next holiday I hope that this article will help make the process and planning easier for you.

Here are my top 12 tips or things to consider:

  1. Before you travel – it is a good idea to consider your destination and ask yourself the following types of questions:
    • What visa requirements do you need and how far in advance do you need to apply for them?
    • Are all your passports up to date and have enough travel time on them as well?
    • Will you require any vaccinations before you travel?
    • What are the basic costs of living where you are going and will that fit within your travel budget?
    • Do you need foreign currency, extra cash or credit cards?
    • Do you require travel or health insurance?
  2. Bill payment – it’s a good idea to pay off your bills before you leave or set up automatic payment so you don’t have to worry about being charged for any late fees.
  3. Mail work out what suits you best with this – either redirect it to the post office or get a neighbour to collect and hold it for you.  It’s a good idea to ensure junk mail is collected as well as otherwise it is a sure sign you are away!
  4. Pets – we have a dog so it was important for us to plan her care whilst we are away and not forget her regular monthly worming either. Either arrange someone to look after the pets at your home or arrange for alternative caring arrangements.
  5. Documents – if you are travelling overseas it is useful to make sure you have copies of any important documents ie passport, credit cards in case they are stolen or lost.  You can take paper copies (but keep separate from the originals) or better still just email them to yourself which is what we did.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry but it did create peace of mind.  My other tip here is to ensure you leave contact numbers for you with neighbours or family should something happen back at home and they need to get in touch.
  6. Packing – it’s a good idea to put together a list at least a few weeks before you leave to ensure you have time to purchase any items you don’t have but need.    
This list doesn’t have to be right down to the number of undies you’ll need, but in general, think about the climate you’ll be traveling to and the types of activities you’ll be doing. Make sure you include things like prescriptions, chargers, emergency phone numbers.  With all your chargers, cords and cables also keep these, in one spot as it is much easier to always know where they are than searching for them.You also need to think about what bags to take and how to pack.  We were on the move quite a bit and I was so glad we had decided to use packing cells for all our items.  This made it much easier to pack up and move each time without having to refold and put items into our suitcases or bags.  A great time saver and made looking for things much easier too.Another tip when it comes to packing is to put all of it together in one place and then cull some of it.  You need to really ask yourself – do you really need all that?  Often at this stage it is things like that extra pair of jeans, the fifth dress, the 7th t-shirt or that extra pair of shoes.   As we usually do when we go on holidays we end up wearing the same favourite outfits over and over again so you really probably don’t need that extra stuff which you only end up carrying around.
  7. Traveling with younger children – it is a good idea to think about what you might need for the plane or other trips to care for them as well as entertain them. Do you still need to be carrying nappies & wipes, spare changes of clothes or undies, or food/snack items? Think about the age of your children and what you might need to pack to entertain them – games, new toy, colouring books & pencils, activities or download age appropriate movies.
  8. At home – it’s always a good idea to ensure you have emptied the rubbish and arranged for the bins to be put out (neighbours are usually happy to assist with this).  Other tips are to empty your fridge of perishable food items and to give it a quick clean too.  It’s much easier when it is nearly empty.  The other tip I like is to change your sheets as there is nothing nicer than arriving home to a clean bed.
  9. Calendar – make sure you review your diary and schedule any events or appointments you might miss whilst away.
  1. Estate plans/wills – I know this is something we usually don’t want to think about but is an essential part of life.  Naturally we all hope nothing happens but it’s life and you need to be prepared for all possible situations.
  2. Work – we often run ourselves into the ground before we go on holidays to ensure everything gets done or is handed over to others to action whilst we are away. Rather than focus on getting everything done on the last day why not also use some time to get things organised for your return to work.  Consider how you will handle the following:
  • How much time will you need to process email and other communications? Put that time in your diary now.
  • Who do you need to meet with when you return to get a handle on your work or projects you are involved in? Schedule these meetings before you leave.By spending an hour or two preparing for when you get back you can truly go and enjoy your holiday without having to start thinking about all of this in your last few days before you return.
  1. Unpack – I know when you arrive home often the last thing you feel like is unpacking but my advice is to do it straight away then it’s done and not hanging over you. You will thank me as to the sake of a short amount of time you have dealt with rather than having it drag on and the longer you leave it the less likely you want to do it too!

By putting in the planning and organisation either upfront or ahead of time, it will assist you to take care of everything, so you can go and enjoy your holiday and time away!

For further assistance in getting organised please get in touch.

 

How to get more than a yes or no answer when asking children questions about their day

Can you relate to this when asking children questions about how they went at school and the only answers you get are short one word responses or no response at all?

How often have you asked the following questions to your child and have been frustrated with their response?

How was school today?  – ” Fine” or “okay” or “not good”

What do you do? – “nothing”

This is a topic that often comes up when conducting workshops so I want to share with you the following tips on asking children questions and getting better responses.

Asking children questions

As a parent I know I have often asked these same questions to my own children.  When your child is younger it isn’t too bad as you generally kept abreast of what was going on at primary school anyway.  However when your child start’s secondary school, and the communication from the school is usually less, it would be great to know more about what is happening in their daily lives.

Don’t despair it may be that you are just not asking the right questions, or not asking them at the right time, which then allows your child to give you the one word responses they give.IMAGE of a family eating dinner around the dining table asking children questions

Here are a couple of tips that you might want to consider when asking children questions:

  • Ask open-ended questions which will allow you to keep the conversation going longer rather than questions that can be answered by one word responses.
  • Children don’t often realise the type of answer you are wanting so it is a good idea to make sure you ask specific questions.
  • Try and ask positive questions which will give your child a chance to express concerns where as asking negative questions it might stop the conversation quicker.

Questions you might like to ask (apply to children of all ages)

Below are a few suggestions on questions you might like to try but feel free to alter so they are applicable to you, your children and circumstances:

  1. Tell me about the best thing that happened at school today.
  2. What was the best thing you learnt today?
  3. Was there something really interesting that you learnt?  I’d love to hear about it.
  4. What was challenging about your day? Why did you find it challenging?
  5. Did a classmate or friend have anything fun or interesting to say?
  6. What was the best thing your teacher asked you to do  in ____ today?
  7. What game did you play at recess/lunch?  Who played with you?
  8. Tell me about a moment in class when you felt confused.  Did you seek any assistance?
  9. Was there anytime today that someone wasn’t very nice to you?
  10. Were there any moments today when you were proud of yourself and something you did?
  11. What did you learn about yourself today?
  12. Is there anything that you are worried about?
  13. What are you looking forward to about tomorrow?
  14. Is there a question you’d like me to ask you about your day?

Give it a go

Why not give some of these questions a go when your child comes home from school today?

Before you do it might be an idea though to consider picking just one or two rather than starting to ask all of these at once.   Your child, particularly older children, will really start to wonder why the change and become suspicious about why you are now asking so many questions!  If it goes well, then next time why not throw in a couple of different ones.

If you want to encourage this to become an ongoing part of your communication with your child it is important that when they actually do talk and answer your question that you make sure you listen.  Teenagers in particular are vary wary of parents cutting in and not letting them speak.

Personally I usually find I have the most useful conversations, and get the best answers, when they are having an afternoon snack, in the car on the way to after school sport or at the dinner table.  These sort of questions are pretty much routine in our household these days and not only my way of taking an interest but also allowing me to find out more about what is happening in the day to day lives of my children.

It would be great to hear if your communication improves as a result of altering what you ask your child about their day – please let me know – amanda@organisingstudents.com.au

It is never too early (or late) to teach children organising skills

Children really are like little sponges from an early age and we need to start teaching them to pick up after themselves and be organised or they will never learn.  It really is up to us as parents to begin facilitating this and it is never too early or late to start! 

If you teach them from a young age, it will not only free up your time, but allow them to gain important life skills and it will assist them with self confidence by feeling capable of being able to do things themselves.quote on not doing things for your children but letting them learn by doing - teach children organising skills

Here are 8 tips to assist you to teach children organising skills:

  1. Developing and following routines – this is one thing that helps children right from an early age begin to learn the foundations of basic organisational and time management skills.  In the beginning it does require a bit of work from us as parents and in particular ensuring everything has a place to live and letting children know where things go.For younger children it can be useful to begin verbalising or making charts with the steps of a particular routine such as morning or evenings.  The clearer you make it for your children and develop regular routines the easier it usually is for everyone.Another example of this is to have toys and things in containers that are labeled or for younger children they could have pictures rather than words to assist them to know where things live.  When children are young and they ask you to find something it can be useful to remind them that they know where they live as that is why we put things back away so you can find them easily next time.
  2. Understanding what it means to be organised – children like to understand why it is important to be organised, how it helps to make life easier and why it can save time.  Be honest with them and naturally give them explanations that are age appropriate so they can understand.  Explain that getting organised isn’t always fun or quick but that it helps in the long run.For younger children you can keep it simple by teaching them things like stacking, matching, wiping, sweeping which are all developmental skills and often they won’t even realize or know that they are learning organising or cleaning up skills.
  3. Leading by example – One of the very first steps as a parent, in teaching your children organising skills, is to ensure you are leading by example.  We have all heard the term ‘monkey see monkey do’ and it really is true.It is really important that you create an environment that reflects organisation.  For instance you could have a family calendar in a central location that everyone, children included, put their information on.  It is also good to ensure that everything has a specific place to live so it is easier for you and your children to find.  It also encourages children to put things back and keeps the place more organised and with less clutter.Remember if you are expecting them to clean up their toys you also need to make sure you don’t leave your own clutter lying around either.Many mothers often get in touch as they are worried they might be passing on bad habits or skills to their children so they get me involved to assist in breaking the cycle, teaching them organisational and time management skills that they can then pass on to the rest of their families.
  4. Don’t just assume they understand what you mean – often we expect our children to know what we are trying to get them to do.  In most cases though they need to be shown first, and possibly several times before they are able to begin doing something themselves.  Usually I suggest you show the child and then be there providing support as they do it themselves a few times and then eventually they will get the hang of it and you no longer necessarily need to be involved in the process.As an example you can show children that when they play with something it needs to go away before the next thing comes out.  You can also involve them in picking up their toys and putting them away at the end of playtime or at the end of the day.  You can start teaching this at a very young and continue on as children get children.  If you struggle with getting your children to do this then a strategy could be to give toys or things time out so they soon get the picture.
  5. Give and teach them strategies – you can teach and use the simple 1-2-3 method to break down most tasks:

    Getting organised or ready – this is teaching your children where they need to be and that they have everything with them they need to complete a task.
    Staying focused/doing the task – this means teaching them they need to stay focused in order to complete the task at hand and learning to say ‘no’ to distractions along the way – this becomes an even more important skill as children get older with completing homework and technology.
    Getting it done/finishing the task – finally this involves teaching a child to complete a task and then checking it has all been finished or done.

    Once children understand this basic method they can then start tackling more tasks independently.

    Try these for simple tasks where you can use this method – brushing ones teeth, packing up a room, emptying the dishwasher or for older children completing their homework.

  6. Asking them for their help – this is another way of empowering children at a young age to help you and to learn organising skills.  Why not ask them how they might go about doing something and give them the opportunity to have a go.  Remember that this is a good way for children to learn and where you can support them rather than doing it for them.An example of a task could be asking them to do something like help you to fold and put the washing way – for younger children you could start by giving them socks to put away and then increasing this to folding them and other items like undies and continuing to progress with other items as they get older until they can do it all themselves.
  7. Making things fun – sometimes making things fun can be a good strategy to adopt in teaching organising skills without children even realising.  For instance at a young age you can make something like packing up toys or getting ready for school into a game of ‘beat the buzzer or the time’.
  8. Please don’t just do it for them – this doesn’t help anyone and if anything creates more work for us as parents.Sometimes we need to reinforce something with our children to ensure a task gets done and I encourage you to do this even though it can be tempting and easier to just do ourselves.  If we continue to pick up after our children then they never actually learn.  An example of this is that I have for some time been getting my children to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and if they leave it on the bench or near the sink, I ask them to come and do it rather than just doing it for them.  Another one is that I no longer pick up their dirty washing in their rooms and that it is their responsibility to put it in the wash or they run the risk of running out of an item or something they need to wear.

If you are still not sure on what you can do for what age group – a simple way to look at it is:

Age 2-4 – keep it simple and very easy without too many steps

Age 5-8 – get creative, give them a challenge and start teaching responsibility

Age 9+ – up the responsibility, give them choices to make and let them establish their own routines  

If you get children involved and start by making some of these things fun from an early age and they won’t even know they are decluttering and organising.  Remember these new skills won’t develop over night and might take time but it really will be worth it in the long run!

If you feel you need assistance to teach children organising skills please get in touch – I regularly work with children of all agesamanda@organisingyou.com.au

Maintenance is the key to being organised

I’m sure you have all heard ‘maintenance is the key to being organised‘ said on numerous occasions well believe me it is true!  As an organising expert it is something I regularly discuss when working with my clients and in workshops.

Maintenance is the keySo what does ‘maintenance is the key to being organised‘ really mean?  In my world it usually means that when one works hard to get themselves organised in any space at home or work then it is important not to undo all that hard work over time by not maintaining that space.  It is taking the time on a regular basis to put things away.  The last thing you want to do is for it to become overwhelming and out of order or control again.

Establishing a few daily and regular habits will help you maintain your space without if feeling like a chore.  A little effort can go a long way as you make your home or work space the haven you love and enjoy having less clutter around you each and everyday.

6 tips for maintaining and staying organised are:

  1. Everything in its place – first and foremost ensure all of your belongings have a designated home or storage space.
  2. Put everything away in it’s place – for example put the scissors away in the office drawer not just on the desk or put your clothes in the cupboard not on the chair or end of your bed.  Another example I like to use is washing in the corner of the room.  Believe me it is much easier to take it off the line, fold it and put it away than to do several loads an pile it up in the corner of the room.  In this instance you look at it and think oh no that will take me ages and then before long it just lives there and you end up getting out what you need.  I hear you say “but that’s okay” – well it might be for now but if you keep doing the same thing before long you end up with a pile of stuff that becomes overwhelming and you dread having to spend time on sorting through it and putting away again.  A bit of short term pain is worth long term gain!
  3. Deal with your mail/paperwork daily – process the mail regularly rather than put it in piles all over the place. If you need to put it in a pile have one designated pile and not multiple.
  4. Have a clear desk or place to work – start and end the day with a clear desk.  Take the 5-10 minutes to put or file things away at the end of the day.  You will feel much better starting the next day rather than arriving to a pile of papers.
  5. Create an evening pick up routine – this should be for everyone and could be daily or or if not do it at least do this once a week.  Set the clock for 10-15 minutes and spend time putting things away where they belong.  You will be amazed at how much organised your place is and feels if you do this.
  6. Don’t have spare empty containers lying around – often when we have spare containers around there is a tendancy to just put things in them ie a visitor is coming over so let’s just put everything into the box from the table and bench space.  This makes the space look good may look good but it creates more work and time needed in having to go through all of the stuff in the container.  Often these containers just get piled up and not dealt with too.  So rather than just putting some thing away in the first place you now have the additional task of having to sort through the items and still spend the time to put away anyway.  I can tell you this is a regular thing I see in clients homes – often things are dumped in bags, boxes, plastic tubs.  My suggestion to you is to remove these empty items so you are not tempted to just stuff things in.

Another simple analysis for what I am saying is “Do it now as later never comes”.  In other words it is better to do the 5 minutes of regular maintenance here and now than compared with the alternative in that it will take you longer to get back in control.

Which would you rather do – spend 5 minutes at the outset and put belongings away or take hours at a later time sorting and then putting away?  I know which one I would rather!

Letting Go of Sentimental clutter

Do you have an issue with letting go of sentimental clutter or possessions?  Many people do and it’s a common question I get asked or have to assist a client with hence why I decided to pen this BLOG.

IMG_2803Most of us hold on to possessions that have a memory attached.  Rest assured the urge to hold onto meaningful clutter is normal.  It could be letters, children’s clothing, war medals, photographs, ornaments and the list goes on.  The items we keep are most likely different for each of us.

There is nothing wrong with holding onto things that have sentimental value.  I have a few pieces of clothing from when my children were little and some of their favourite toys.  The other sentimental items we have are my grandfather’s navigator hat that he gave to my son and an antique clock. Other than that we actually don’t have many other items boxed up or lying around.

It is just not practical to keep every memento or item as it would be very hard to find somewhere for each item and more importantly it doesn’t give honour to those sentimental items that are really special.

Another reason many people hold on to items is that they were given them by loves ones and by choice would not necessarily have purchased them themselves.  Often these sentimental items are usually packed away and very rarely sighted so why then is parting ways with sentimental items so difficult?

Here are a few things that might assist you with your sentimental clutter and the decision making process:
  1. It’s important, like with any clutter, if an item no longer brings you any joy then it is usually a sign to part ways.
  2. Holding on to sentimental items can imprison us but letting go can set you free.  Free yourself of the weight – maybe not all of it but at least some of it by partying ways with some of the items.
  3. As The Minimalists often say ‘our memories are not in things’ – our memories are inside us.
  4. Enlist some help but make sure it is the right kind of help to allow you to make your own decisions
  5. Another way of putting it is ‘the value isn’t often the items themselves but the stories behind them’.  Maybe you could go through them with someone else and share the stories or if you like get a recording of you holding certain items and talking about them.
  6. You can also take photos of items and keep the memory that way rather than necessarily holding onto everything.  We have tended to do this quite a bit with our children’s art work and projects otherwise we would have had to build extra rooms in our house to store them.
  7. Let time pass – if the items are not already boxed up then it can be useful to put them in a box for a period of time to see if you miss them or not?  Sometimes we are not ready to deal with such items so this method could assist particularly if you are grieving or downsizing.  Be assured that usually our relationship to sentimental clutter changes over time.
  8. By letting go of items that no longer add value to our own lives we are then able to give them to others where they will have a new home and thus a new purpose.
  9. By having few sentimental items we are able to enjoy them more – usually you get more value from the fewer items you keep rather an having hundreds of unloved items.  A quote I like to use is ‘save the best and toss the rest’.
  10. When going through items it is okay to have strong emotions – some will be positive and others negative.  You need to be able to experience emotion so you get to a point where you can actually let go of the items – or at least some of them.

The other thing I often say to clients about sentimental things is if they are actually very important then you should honour them and display them rather than keeping them in a box in the cupboard.

So let me ask are you holding onto any sentimental items that no longer serve a purpose or bring you joy?  Are they weighing you down?  Are they items that could someone else if you gave them away?  Would you benefit if you let some of them go?  Maybe it is time for you to make the decision and let go.

A couple of approaches you can take:
  1. just jump in and get rid of everything (now this isn’t for everyone but might work for some) or
  2. take small steps and start by going through and making decisions about a few items and then each day make more decisions about others – you can then do more as you feel more comfortable in making decisions.

Good luck!

If you find you are still struggling to make a decision and would like some assistance then I am more than happy to help you with the process – please get in touch amanda@organisingyou.com.au or 0409967166.

 

Backing up is a must for everyone

Do you regularly back up your home computer or for those of you in an office does your business regularly back up?

I ask this question because lately I have been hearing terrible stories about families losing files and photos and businesses having to shut up shop due to not having backups to restore information when a virus has taken hold.  I was also speaking to a friend recently who was telling me how she now loves using her calendar on her iphone for both work and personal appointments.  I then asked her if she was backing up to which she said I don’t thinks so and how do I do that.  I explained it to her as now that she is happy with using this system there would be nothing worse if she lost it all and had to start again.  Don’t let this be you!

Last week I had my own issue where I accidently deleted a folder from my mailbox that had important information that I couldn’t afford to lose.  Personally I have never had to use my back up but I was reassured that within 5 minutes I was able to restore the folder and all was okay again.

The backing up process does not need to be difficult and if you are not sure how to do it then I ask that you seek the necessary advice from your relevant IT contact or provider.  For instance I use Apple products now for both my business and at home with my family and I back up the business/home computer daily and the information is saved to a portable hard drive as well as to the cloud.  I think it is also very useful to test your back up from time to time to ensure it actually works.  There is no point backing up if you are not 100% confident it is actually doing what it is meant to be.  It is also very useful to know what the process or procedure is that you need to follow should you be in a situation like I was when you need to restore something.

IMG_7568The other thing to be aware is it is okay to back up to a portable hard drive but what happens if your computer gets stolen as does your hard drive that probably lives next to the computer on your desk?  My suggestion here is to have two hard drives regularly rotating one off site (ie to a family members place or ones work place) so the worst case scenario is you lose a week or so of work, files or photos and not months & months!

In a family environment it is also important that not only are all your devices and computers backed up but so of your children, particularly those who are students.  There would be nothing worse that losing a major assignment that your child has spent hours on and all of a sudden the computer or ipad just died.  Please have this discussion with all family members and also it is useful to check their devices as I my son recently told me he was backing up as he thought he was when infact it actually wasn’t.

Please don’t leave it too late as when your device or computer dies then it is unlikely you will be able to recover anything and if you do you will be in the minority and lucky!  Please look into backing up now.

Files not Piles – file organisation for everyone

Recently I had a discussion with my son about setting up our home office so that he too can share it.  We were discussing how to organise it when we started talking about his locker at school and how he keeps his notes and homework in a folder to bring home.  The discussion then moved on to how he should store this information at home where I offered suggestions.  He turned around to me and said I will be one of the few students who has ‘files and not piles’.  This really pleased me in that I realised he has been listening to my various discussions with other students and taking this in without my even knowing.

How is your own file organisation or that of those in your family particularly any students in your home?  Do you or they place it in piles around the place or do you actually file it in folders in a cabinet or on the desk?  This can relate to both paper or electronic information.  How are your electronic files are they inconsistently named or are they in easy to navigate folders and sub folders?  Maybe you are better at dealing with paper or electronic information or neither?

IMG_7521File organisation is a life skill that is best learnt as early as possible.  Our children as students need to learn this but don’t worry if you yourself haven’t as yet as it can be learnt.  Information is everywhere and needs to be filed somewhere even if it is the bin!   This applies in our homes, on our desks, kitchen benches or tables, home or work offices and even on the electronic devices we all use.

Generally you are either a filer or a piler.  Piler’s can function well and still be organised and productive.  If you are a true piler then usually youIMG_7522 know exactly where something is within the piles.  For most people that I usually work with, families, students, small businesses the piles however are not following that of a true piler and just end up that way.  Another reason things end up in piles is that people don’t want to make decisions about what to do with it and it is easier just to add to the pile.   The problem with this approach is that they often become overwhelmed and stressed as they can never find things in a hurry and they waste time and effort by shuffling paper around and around.

What I usually do when working with clients it to tailor a filing system that will work and function for them – what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.  The key to conquering your paper clutter once and for all is to use a system that fits your natural way of doing things.  In most cases it starts with the paper and then moves to the electronic aspect as well.

A few key tips to assist are:

  • determining what information you need to keep and what doesn’t – what is important to you and what isn’t (this will be different for everyone).
  • deciding how to treat the information when it first comes in – have one place where it initially goes until you get a chance to go through it.  Without one spot you will create more spots and piles.
  • reducing the amount of paper – can you reduce the incoming flood of paper by opting for paperless billing, unsubscribe from magazines or newsletters (this also includes emails).
  • not leaving information in a pile that keeps getting added to – taking the time to deal with the information on a regular basis – have an established routine.
  • taking action – when information begins to pile up past your comfort zone then make sure you take action rather than let it take over and overwhelm you.
  • having a filing system – it does not need to be complex, the most important thing is to be consistent in what system you decide to use and file in the same way.  Ensure it is labeled by category too.
So what are you now and what do you want to be in the future?  Are you ready to make a change?

Whether you go to school, or not, now is a good time to ensure your home and office spaces are set up for productivity and function for you.  So take the time to figure this out, get it organised, and get back to work or study!

Tax preparation – Its time to get on top of your financial records

It is nearly that time of year again in terms of tax preparation with 30 June approaching.  Are you more organised than you have been in the past or is this something you are dreading having to do?

One of the main reasons many people delay filing their taxes is that they are disorganised.  They don’t know where all the information is and they are not really sure what they actually need.  People dread having to search and process information and thus put it off as long as they possibly can.  It really doesn’t have to be that big a deal and it just requires you to have a designated system that you follow every year.  Don’t let the paper clutter and the process of finding the information overwhelm you!

I recently discussed tax time preparation with Stacey PriceSohpie Price Photo from Healthy Business Finances and between the two of us we hope these 10 tips assist you no matter what stage of organisation or disorganisation you are at when it comes to tax time!

  1. Address details – consider if you have moved address during the year.  You don’t want your annual payment summary from your employer to be posted to the wrong address.  This is also really important if you have changed jobs during the year – let your previous employer know where to send your payment summary.
  2. Bank accounts – usually on your last statement for the financial year the bank accounts will tell you your interest earned.  You don’t need to give your tax accountant every single statement for the year – but that final one is important.
  3. Health insurance statement – you will need your annual health statement for your tax return.  Most funds email them out – so again, check they have the right details.
  4. Email and manual tax folders – we suggest starting a folder in your email directory called “tax 2015 financial year” – that way when you receive receipts, statements, payment summaries – they are all stored in the one spot and easily found.  You can also set up a manual one if you haven’t already.  This is then something you should start for the next financial year too.
  5. Rental Property – if you use a rental agent, they should provide you with a statement detailing your income and expenses for the property for the year.  This annual statement is gold and will form part of your tax return.
  6. Dividends – if you own shares, during the year you may receive dividends.  Often by the time tax time comes around the fiddly dividend pieces of paper can be filed anywhere!  If you struggle to keep the paperwork in order, then I suggest printing statements from your share provider – such as computershare or investor centre – wherever the shares are held.  Then you can just print out a yearly summary.
  7. Tax Deductions – do you need a way to capture small receipts during the year that are tax deductions?  Usually the biggest ones are for donations ie daffodil day pens, ANZAC poppies – a few dollars here and there soon add up but the receipts are nowhere to be seen.  One way is to take photos of them on your phone, email them to yourself and save the email in the directory you setup in your inbox called “Tax 2015 financial year”.
  8. Don’t know what you need – then it might be time to pull out last years tax return as a refresher.  As a result of this you might like to put together a checklist of all the documents you might need.  If you do this then save it in your tax folder either manual or electronic.
  9. Storing tax information – only keep the documents of the current year and the previous year close to where you work.  Reduce the amount of paper and files by putting previous years tax information elsewhere in your home, labeled appropriately. If you are not sure what needs to be saved and for how long then please ask your accountant or visit the ATO so you know!
  10. Destroying tax information – You don’t need to keep all your information for ever and once you understand how long you must hold onto records for you can then destroy older information and can then do this on a yearly basis by destroying the relevant year.

One final point is that individuals can now lodge tax returns via MYGOV (ATO free service) so if you don’t already have a MYGOV account, it might be good to set that up before tax time to avoid any issues with connecting it all up and passwords when things get hectic.

You may need to invest some time to get on top of this but there is an upside – the more organised you can be the more likelihood of you completing your taxes on time and with less stress.  Who knows in the future you may then not dread this task that we all must do!

If after reading these tips you still feel you would like some help please contact me – amanda@organisingyou.com.au and I can assist you to get the information better organised.  If however it is financial assistance or lodgement advice you need then please contact Stacey – stacey@healthybusinessfinances.com.au.

 

Stacey logo

Home is where the heart is – decide for yourself how it should be organised!

I have had this idea for this BLOG for some time and recently was reading an article in the Australia Women’s Weekly by Annabel Crabb which confirmed why I wanted to write this.  In her article Annabel talks about not worrying about an organised house and choosing to spend time on baking with her children rather than tidying the living room. Naturally that’s her choice.

We all have choices and the choice you make should be guided by you, your family and your needs.  In society today we are strongly influenced by all forms of media and in particular magazines that portray ‘perfect homes’ and how they should look.  I’m not saying that if that’s is what you like you shouldn’t have it.  What I am saying is that you need to decide for yourself how you want your home to be.

Its important to note that those pictures you see don’t have people living in that space and that they are staged and set up.  What they are usually trying to do is to sell you an idea of a prettier space or one that is organised. This is very different to reality where you might have a newspaper sitting on a table or school papers or mail on the kitchen bench.  Yes any space can be organised to look good but you need it to be functional, easy to maintain and somewhere that you actually live and enjoy.

See I have washing around at times!

See I have washing around at times!

As a professional organiser I often get asked if my home is perfect and organised? Usually my answer is in between a yes and no.  I have a family and I too can get busy and let things slip.  What I do then go on to say is that I have systems though that can easily bring it back to being more organised quite quickly and without much effort.  I’m comfortable in that I believe my home functions and caters to the needs of my family.  We know where things are, everything has a home but by no means does it look like those images you see in a magazine!

That is the essence of this piece in that you have a home that works for you and whoever shares your abode.  If having a bit of mess around works for you then so be it.  Mess too can mean different things as well and for some it could be piles of paper or things not yet put away like clothes.  Another reason could be whether or not you have children and what ages they are.  For instance younger children often have toys and want to be in the space you are – it can be organised but it is more challenging to keep on top of it *.

Often there is a tipping point for most people in terms of the build up of clutter and that is usually that it starts to worry them more.  Even sometimes they don’t know where to start.  Up until that point if you are comfortable in your home so be it and don’t be influenced to have it ‘perfect’.  Embrace where you live and enjoy life!

What will your choice be for home organising?  Home is where the heart is – decide for yourself how it should be organised! 

Let me leave you with one final thought – Give your home heart by filling it only with the things you love so that its a space you want to be in and something that nurtures you!

 

* Organising children’s toys is the focus of another blog – click here to read.

6 tips on dealing with toy clutter in your home

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to storing or organising children’s toys in your home.  You have to do what works for you, your family and the space you have. It’s about finding the balance between keeping the toys accessible for the children to play with but organised and out of the way when needed.

Many of my clients, particularly those with younger children, often struggle in what to do with toys and where they should live in the house.  Often they tend to end up settling in the central living space as that is where you are and where the children, particularly younger ones, want to be.

toysAs children get older you generally find they are happier to play with and store their toys in another area away from the central living space and in a toy room.

Where ever your children play with or store their toys it is important to keep on top their organisation and not just shut the door to the room so you can’t see what is inside at the end of the day.

Here are 6 tips to assist you in dealing with toy clutter in your home:

  1. Get children to help you put them away – Often it is easier to just spend 5 minutes at the end of the day putting away the toys yourself but my advice is to begin teaching your children from young age to help you.  Investing in this time early on by involving them in the process will teach them responsibility and organisation skills that will assist them in life.  For younger children you could make it into a fun time with a game by setting a timer and giving them small tasks to complete.Don’t necessarily pick up after each time they play with their toys as you would be doing this all the time.  Try though by taking a few minutes at the end of each day and doing this on a regular basis so that it doesn’t become too big a chore and overwhelm you and the family.
  1. Try and establish a one activity at a time routine – ”you can play with the cars after you put the puzzles back in their home”.  Encourage children to put away an activity or set of toys when they are done playing before they start the next activity.  This isn’t always going to work but it is worth spending time implementing when children understand the concept.  Children often follow similar routines at daycare, kindergarten or school so it is won’t be foreign to them.
  1. Store toys – ‘like with like’ or ‘same with same’ and make toys easily accessible – where possible it is better to keep toys of a similar nature together rather than having in one large toy box.  Generally large toy boxes don’t work very well as toys get mixed up in one big mess, things get lost and often you find children will just tip out all of the contents anyway to find what they are looking for.My advice is to use smaller easier to handle carry containers for storing similar items together.  Often clear tubs can work with picture labels for younger children. It is useful for example keep together all the toy cars, or dolls clothes, or blocks, or lego and so on.  If you have book shelves or even the cubed bookshelves you can use containers in these to keep toys of a similar nature together.Dress ups are usually great if you can keep them all together in one place and where children can easily get them out as well as put them away.
  1. Rotate toys on a regular basis – as children seem to have quite a lot of toys these days a rotation system can assist with keeping clutter at bay.  Where possible store the surplus toys in containers in a shed or even in a cupboard.  This will assist with storage issues in your living space and create new experience for your children when you rotate them around.
  1. Keeping some toys out of reach – by this I mean keeping those toys that require greater assistance, like art & craft or complex puzzles, in a less accessible space.  This won’t suit all of you as I know for some families like to have their children access all varieties of activities at all times where as others like to control the use of these things.  You need to find what works best for you and your family.
  1. Regularly sort through toys – it is a good idea to periodically go through your children’s toys to see what items might need:

* repairing

* cleaning

* throwing out

* donating or handing on as they are no longer used or age appropriate.

A good time to go through this process might be prior to a birthday or before Christmas.  Depending upon the age of your child you might like to involve them in the decision making process too.  If you are donating items ask around in your local community as often kindergartens, schools, medical rooms, or children’s hospitals will be very grateful to receive toys that are in reasonable and workable condition.

Finally let me leave you with a final thought if I may – I remember the days when we had toys everywhere in our living space and I often thought this is never going to end.  Well it does and my advice is to try and enjoy this period of time in your life as before you know it they will be older and no longer want to play with toys.

Please use these tips to assist you with staying on top of toy clutter so the toys don’t control your house but you control them!

Published in Kids Magazine – Issue 21 – April 2015